The Property and Evidence Tracking System (PETS) is the NYPD's huge database where it stores ownership information on the millions in New Yorkers' property it takes charge of every year (including about $68m in cash and counting), through evidence collection and asset forfeiture. Read the rest
ICE have become house-flippers, using the notorious and discredited "civil asset forfeiture" process to steal houses from people they say were involved in crime, then selling the houses to fund their operations, and more seizures of more houses. Read the rest
Hey, remember how Bill Clinton doubled down on the War on Drugs, perfecting Reagan's haphazard and shoddily made race-war into a well-oiled incarceration machine that turned America into the world's greatest incarcerator, a nation that imprisoned black people at a rate that exceeded Apartheid-era South Africa? Read the rest
It took four years, but the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has finally ruled in favor of 72 year old grandmother Elizabeth Young, whose house was seized by the Philadelphia District Attorney under asset forfeiture rules when her son was caught selling $140 worth of marijuana to undercover agents.
Under civil forfeiture rules, cops and DAs get to steal property suspected of being the proceeds of a crime, then they sue the inanimate objects. The owners of the objects can hire lawyers to represent their property, while the taxpayers foot the bill for the state's side of the suit. If the government wins, it gets to keep the property or sell it and pocket the proceeds.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court blasted the DA for the seizure and reminded the state's lawyers and cops that they can only invoke civil forfeiture when there is good reason to believe that the property's owner "knew of and agreed to the crimes" in question.
The cop who bought the marijuana from Young's son is currently serving a 3.5 year federal prison sentence for planting drugs on suspects.
Read the rest
Young is far from the only person to have her house seized by the Philadelphia D.A. for a minor drug crime that she didn't even commit. In 2013, Philadelphia police seized the house of Christos and Markela Sourovelis after their son was arrested for selling $40-worth of drugs outside of it.
The Sourovelis' sued, with assistance from the libertarian-leaning Institute for Justice, a nonprofit law firm that has challenged asset forfeiture laws in several states.
Banks have to report deposits of $10,000 or more to the IRS, so some fraudsters "structure" their transactions as a string of sub-$10K payments that escape the regulatory requirement. Structuring is also illegal, and the IRS has the power to seize funds that the agency believes were part of a structuring scheme, under the discredited "civil fofeiture" process through which an inanimate object is sued for being the proceeds of a crime, and then the owner of that object has to prove that the object is "innocent." Read the rest
Civil asset forfeiture is the bizarre American practice of seizing peoples' property without charging its owner: instead the property is charged with being the ill-gotten gains of a crime, and if the owner doesn't pay their property's legal bills, the police get to keep or sell the property. Read the rest
Civil asset forfeiture is a perfectly foreseeable outcome of the overbroad War on Drugs: it allows the cops to seize your belongings and charge them -- not you! -- with being the proceeds of a crime. Then it's up to you to figure out how to prove that your cash, car, house, or other belongings are innocent, otherwise the cops get to keep your stuff and use it to fund their operations. Read the rest
Crooked cops and prosecutors in Nebraska are gnashing their teeth today. The state has taken away their license to steal cash and property from innocent people and use the proceeds to fatten their bloated budgets.
In some states where civil forfeiture is still allowed, high ranking police officers drive in luxury sports cars taken from owners who were never arrested for a crime.
In America, your belongings can be confiscated by the police without warrant or evidence as proceeds of a crime, and then the government sues your possessions (not you), in lawsuits like "Township of East Bumblefuck vs $50,000 in $100 bills." Read the rest
US police seized $4.5 billion through civil asset forfeiture (through which police can take money and valuables away from citizens without charging anyone with any crimes) in 2014; in the same period, the FBI estimates that burglars accounted for $3.9B in property losses.
In July 2014 the St. Clair County Drug Task Force raided medical marijuana patient Ginnifer Hency's home and "took everything," including a car, TV sets, a ladder, her children's cellphones and iPads, and even her vibrator. The charges were dropped against Hency (who uses weed to relieve pain from multiple sclerosis) because she was complying with Michigan's medical marijuana laws, but county prosecutors decided to keep her family's property because they claimed civil forfeiture laws allowed them to. Hency said a prosecutor told her, "I can still beat you in civil court. I can still take your stuff."
But a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling on medical marijuana means Hency's case is "no longer viable," said St. Clair County Prosecutor Michael Wendling, and they will return Hency's property.
From Detroit Free Press:
The Supreme Court ruling last week clarified when caregivers and users can use their medical marijuana certification as a defense or immunity if charged with a marijuana-related crime. It was the court’s ninth medical marijuana ruling since voters approved the Michigan Medical Marijuana Marihuana Act in 2008.
“We would have to have specific evidence on those items in order to overcome that burden now that we did not have to show before,” Wendling said.
Hency’s lawyer, Michael Komorn, told the Free Press the decision “does not eliminate the horror of what they’ve had to deal with the last year."
Air fresheners, rosaries, and pro-police car stickers give cops a justifiable reason to pull over a car, ruled the Fifth Circuit US Court of Appeals. The ruling was based on a 2011 Texas case in which a police officer pulled over a car that had those items on display. The officer suspected the occupants were transporting drugs. The officer search the car and didn't find drugs, but he found cash, which he confiscated. The driver was sent to jail. Read the rest
Authorities in Oklahoma are fighting new legislation designed to address abuses of civil asset forfeiture. And for good reason – the authorities enjoy the money and property they steal from innocent people and are angry that someone is threatening to yank their snouts out of the trough. Read the rest
"Yesterday, two landmark reforms took effect in Montana and New Mexico," says Nick Sibilla. "Both states now require a criminal conviction for civil forfeiture, while New Mexico went even further and banned the practice outright." Read the rest